What is happening to the Manchester music scene?

Back in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s, Manchester, otherwise known as ‘Madchester’, was revered as the music capital of the UK, with rock, pop, jazz and dance being engrained in the DNA. Manchester brought us Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, Joy Division, The Buzzcocks and many more, but in the last 10 years or so the city that used to churn out great bands on a monthly basis seems to have lost its way. Recent success stories such as Courteeners and The 1975 are few and far between, so what is going wrong in the North-West of England and why is the music scene in decline?

Early Dressing Room Shot Oasis – Johnny Hopkins

It is no secret that the past two years have hit independent venues, pubs and clubs with over 10,000 closures being confirmed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the trend of venues closing in Manchester dates back pre-pandemic, and noticably in my first year at university in 2017.

For years I’d been desperate to move to Manchester. The city had a pull on me like no other, despite me being a Liverpool fan, and the music scene was a massive part of the pull. Me and the boys would regularly travel up and down the country and Manchester was one of our favourite destinations. Early days we saw the likes of Peace, Circa Waves, The Strypes, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Blossoms and many more, often in venues with no more than a couple hundred capacity. Two venues which really stuck in my mind were The Ruby Lounge and Sound Control where I saw Black Honey and Pretty Vicious respectively.

However, within 6 months of me moving to the London of the North, both had closed down, alongside Antwerp Mansion; the Star & Garter on was also on the verge of collapse. My disappointment was unparalleled, these infamous venues notorious for being the starting points for the underground and exceptional Manchester music scene were going extinct. Beloved venues like Gorilla and Deaf Institute followed, before a campaign lead by Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess managed to save the venues from falling victim to the pandemic.

Antwerp Mansion, 2017

The Manchester music scene is no longer thriving. Big city developments have lead to more and more venues in the heart of the town being demolished, and repurposed for Student accommodation and property developments, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of millions. Manchester is a shell of its former self. Despite venues such as Night n’ Day Cafe, Gullivers and Jimmy’s still going, the unsigned and upcoming music scene seems to be moving further and further away from what once was the biggest scene in the world.

We no longer see bands come blasting out the gates after developing a cult following in the classic Manc venues, and that is simply because there are hardly any venues left. Alongside streaming culture and a global pandemic, it is hard to imagine Manchester will ever be able to get back to the glory years.

Of course the big names still have the Arena, the Cricket Ground and 2 huge football stadiums to attend if necessary, the days of finding the next Oasis in a 50 capacity venue seem redundant, and cities like Leeds and Sheffield are developing as the go to places for upcoming bands heading to the north of England.

The capital of music is collapsing and there is nothing we can do about it.

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